Chambers picked but not backed by British selectors
Wednesday 13 February 2008
Britain's selectors bowed to the inevitable yesterday as they grudgingly accorded Dwain Chambers a place at next month's World Indoor Championships.
But the 29-year-old sprinter was told that the committee had been "unanimous" in its desire not to choose him, and also heard that he will not be invited to run at this Saturday's Norwich Union Grand Prix – a decision taken by event organisers Fast Track on the grounds of "protecting the image of the sport".
Chambers may have managed his second return to athletics after serving a two-year doping ban, but he is swiftly learning that there is a difference between being back in the running and back in the fold. Given his emphatic win over 60 metres in the Norwich Union World trials on Sunday, the selectors had no realistic option but to grant the Londoner his place as they announced their main team for the championships in Valencia next month.
To have done otherwise would have been to trigger the High Court injunction that was prepared by Chambers' solicitors when UK Athletics said they would not be allowing him to run at the trials, a course of action that risked plunging the domestic sport into the kind of lawsuit that saw the British Athletic Federation founder in 1997 in the wake of courtroom wrangles over Diane Modahl's two-year doping ban.
Dave Collins, the UKA performance director, made it clear that he did not welcome having to make a decision which leaves the places of athletes eligible for Olympic selection, such as Simeon Williamson, second in the trials, and Craig Pickering, who has won both the Glasgow and Stuttgart 60m events this season, in jeopardy.
"Personally, I would rather have been able to take two up-and-coming athletes to the championships and forego a medal," Collins said.
What is sticking in UKA's throats with Chambers is not so much his doping ban – after all, he was allowed back afterwards in 2006 – but the way he has conducted himself since, seeking to create a career in American Football and maintaining last year that any doped athlete would have to be having a "bad day" not to beat a clean athlete.
The performance director acknowledged that the current selection criteria were not framed to deal with the circumstances the Chambers case had presented, although he stressed that they would be altered as a matter of urgency. He denied there was any hypocrisy in the fact that there was no debate over including another athlete who has served a drugs ban in Carl Myerscough.
"Carl has remained committed to athletics, and remained on the out-of-competition testing programme," Collins said. "He's been an athlete full-out. Dwain hasn't." The performance director added that the "exceptional circumstances" clause written into the selectors' guidelines concerned events related to performances, such as an athlete being tripped, or a number of leading contenders all being disqualified for false starts.
The strongly worded statement issued by UKA yesterday certainly pulled few punches. "Taking Dwain to the World Indoors deprives young, upwardly mobile committed athletes of this key development opportunity.
"Our World Class Performance Programme is focused on achievement at Olympic and World level. On this basis, It is extremely frustrating to leave young athletes at home; eligible for Beijing, in possession of the qualifying standard and committed to ongoing participation in a drug-free sport. In contrast, we have to take an individual whose sudden return, especially when considered against his previous actions and comments, suggests that he may be using the whole process for his own ends."
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